"Tao of Martial Applications" DISCUSSION:
Mark Thomasson DDS recently sent a very insightful article on the concept of "Face" to me. Mark is a student of Master Stephen Hwa and has studied Classical Tai Chi for several years now. In his article Mark writes: "I think this consumer driven "show me", "how many lessons will it take?" is consistent with popular consumer culture. This attitude of proof before pay weakens the classical teacher/student relationship...it changes it...creating distance and a barrier of skepticism to receiving instruction" He quotes Herbert Spencer: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance - that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
I find Mark's article to be spot on in light of the power that material culture holds over us all. In my opinion, "consumer driven" or "material culture" weakens teacher/student relationships by creating a barrier of skepticism because by its very nature it allows very little in the way of expression. You see, the relationship between teacher and student in Tai Chi is a two way street , it has to increase the scope of expression for coherent learning but it also has to allow both parties to show mutual respect or "save face" ( mianzi )in the process.
I have found some students who went far beyond mere skepticism even when they received free lessons. Their attitudes were nothing less than arrogant, completely insulting and their whole aim seemed to be a humiliation of the teacher. On the other hand I have experienced teachers myself, who felt that even the most politely worded questions were humiliating. This I'm pretty sure has quite a basis in the concept of "saving face". What a paradoxical situation where Tai Chi is so fluid, seemingly "laid back" and yet we find both teachers and students being as unyielding as steel.
Students may haphazardly come to rudimentary understanding over years in spite of this. However, I do not think they will come to understand the greatest principle of "internal discipline" I say internal discipline is the greatest principle because Tai Chi is based on an internal physical discipline. This physical internal discipline is so little known and misunderstood that most Tai Chi nowdays exists because it is based on having a certain internal mental demeanor. Fortunately, there are teachers whose whole purpose is to teach Classical Tai Chi as an art based on solid footing of principles. More fortunate is the teaching of Classical Tai Chi with the primary principle of Internal Discipline being in the forefront. This is an emphasis on internal discipline with scientific understanding, rather than keeping a student strung along on a diet of "technique and application" using external movement.
Classical Tai Chi is fortunate to have Master Stephen Hwa as an enlightened teacher who holds no "bars against information". His students have learned as well not to hold "contempt prior to investigation". As a student of his, I feel quite fortunate to have a teacher that bases his teaching on a comprehensive scientific approach to learning. The learning of internal discipline gives the student ample opportunity to follow the scientific method. Students are encouraged to research things themselves, make observations, test/experiment and analyze their results. In the case of Internal Discipline students have "feedback" and tactile sensations of the body to confirm their study. Above all, students are encouraged to ask questions but also learn enough scientific discipline to ask questions based on their prior research and study.
It is quite obvious in the attached video that there are no barriers of skepticism. Yet, there is an obvious level of respect between Master Hwa and his students. Students in this discussion are being encouraged to ask questions but also guided by Master Hwa in how to do so intelligently and succinctly. In addition, we have ample representation here of allowing all parties to "save face" in an atmosphere of mutual learning. It would appear that traditional concerns over respecting one's teacher are not violated in an atmosphere where scientific discipline is maintained. Based on our experience and research however, it will be predicated on having a teacher that is well versed in both Classical Tai Chi and the Scientific Method.